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International visitors join St. Kate’s community for leadership training

African women leaders from 19 countries joined St. Kates for two days in March for leadership training as part of the 100 Women Initiative.
African women leaders from 19 countries joined St. Kates for two days in March for leadership training as part of the 100 Women Initiative.
Rebecca Zenefski 10

St. Catherine University staff and faculty shared leadership insights with a group of African women leaders as part of the U.S. Department of State’s “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges.”

Women from 19 African countries spent two days on the University’s St. Paul campus to learn more about women’s leadership. St. Kate’s collaborated with the Minnesota International Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America; the Foreign Policy Association; the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) and the National Council for International Visitors.

Staff and faculty from the St. Kate’s School of Business and leadership, including the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) program and Leadership Institute organized and led the program. It began Tuesday with a welcome from School of Business and Leadership Dean Paula King, Ph.D., a presentation from MAOL Program Director Rebecca Hawthorne, Ph.D. and a panel discussion featuring Dr. King, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Brian Bruess, O’Neill Center Director Thelma Obah, Leadership Institute Director Mary Angela Baker and student leaders Latiifah Kiribedda and Leslie Muzulu.

MAOL faculty lead leadership workshop
The next morning opened with a keynote presentation by Roxanne Givens, founder of the Minnesota African American Museum and a former University trustee. MAOL faculty then led a day-long workshop that encouraged the group to share their stories, network and expand their perspectives on leadership and cultural differences.

A morning exercise on the origination of their first name gave the participants the opportunity to create a narrative around their identity and leadership as well as a deeper understanding of themselves.

In the afternoon, a discussion centering on challenges facing women leaders highlighted the obstacles and misunderstanding women face and how women overcome them. The African visitors asked their American hosts to share their challenges and the ensuing dialogue pointed to the universality of negative stereotypes that women labor against around the globe.

The African women also identified a lack of mentors and difficulties such as cultural biases and the weight of deeply rooted traditions as barriers to growth and advancement.

Hawthorne and MAOL faculty members Amy Batiste, Ed.D., Ginny Belden-Charles, M.A., and Ariella Tilsen, M.A., outlined how American women form peer networks to provide much needed support and learning in companies where mentors do not exist. They gave workshop participants tools and resources to form these support structures in their own countries.

Motivational speaker Verna Price, Ph.D., completed the afternoon workshop. Her inspirational remarks focused on helping workshop participants understand their capacity for influence and personal power more deeply.

The visit closed with a reception for the African women leaders with staff, faculty and students. Divided into five groups of 20, the African women leaders began their American saga in Washington, D.C., and then traveled to different cities across the country. The exchange will conclude with a re-convening in San Francisco that includes mapping out plans for a legacy project to support empowering future generations of women and girls.

Plans for global convening in July
St. Catherine University's School of Business and Leadership will host another women’s global leadership convening in July.

Allianz has agreed to partner with St. Catherine University for the 2011 Global Women's Leadership Convening and has awarded the University a grant of $60,000.

Bringing together women leaders from Israel, Jordan and St. Kate’s, the 10-day convening in July will share best practices of women's leadership development, identify barriers for women's leadership advancement and create strategies to address those barriers. The participants will also develop a framework for future meetings.

View a slide show from the event.

March 17, 2011 by Julie Michener

See also: Faculty, Leadership, Social Justice